3D Printed Clay Tiles is certainly a major break through in the time when coral reefs are getting affected. Caribbean Sea is known for its colourful and diverse coral reefs. However, Hong Kong’s sea water hosts more than 84 species of coral reef. And just like coral reefs of other oceans and seas, Hong Kong’s sea coral reefs are in a devastating condition due to climate change. Helping corals to survive long enough and adapt to the warming warms, marine biologists at the University of Hong Kong are working on 3D printed clay tiles for the corals to grow on.
This idea came after the government was alerted to reefs bleaching and dying at the Hoi Ha Wan marine park, and had to find a sustainable solution. David Baker, associate professor at HKU’s School of Biological Sciences,
“3D printing allows us to customise a tile or a solution for any type of environment and I think that’s the real potential that the technology brings.”
By printing tiles in clay adds to the sustainability because if the coral colony fails on the tile, the tile will erode without altering the chemistry of the water.
Clay is basically soil, so soil you can find everywhere on earth,” said Christian Lange, associate professor at HKU’s Department of Architecture.
The Process of 3D Printing Clay
During the process, more than 400 coral fragments were attached to the printed hexagonal tiles placed on a 40 square meter area of the seabed in Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park. According to Vriko Yu, a PhD student of Ecology and Biodiversity at HKU. “The first time we put down the tiles, there were a few fish around,” said Yu. But after returning, they were teeming with marine life, including cuttlefish protecting their eggs in their new homes. She estimated that the success rate of the tiles was close to 90%, adding that “the corals now on the tiles definitely survive better than the traditional way of transplantation.”
Baker is quite hopeful that printed tiles will allow the research team to determine species are resilient to climate change.